Kia Picanto review
The stylish Kia Picanto rivals the Hyundai i10, with low running costs and a seven-year warranty
The Kia Picanto has always been about value for money, which is why it was one of the Scrappage Schemes biggest winners. This second-generation model - which hit UK roads in 2011 - still offers great value, but it has also introduced a dose of sophistication into the mix. It’s one of the best looking cars in its class, with chunky styling and the firm’s distinctive ‘tiger-nose’ grille – it makes the Hyundai i10 look dull and the Fiat 500 a bit old-fashioned. As well as the practical five-door model, the latest Picanto is also available as a sporty three-door for the first time, while a longer wheelbase means there’s more room in the back and more boot space, too. Two efficient petrol engines make the Picanto perfect for nipping around town, but also prove surprisingly comfortable and quiet at higher speeds. There’s a wide range of trim levels, but all models come well equipped, with mid-range 2 cars including luxuries like alloy wheels, all around electric windows and Bluetooth.
Our choice: Picanto 1.25 '2' ISG
The Kia Picanto borrows a whole host of styling cues from the larger Venga, with bold, chunky styling, sharp creases and boomerang rear lights that give it an upmarket look. The front end is almost cartoon-like, with the oversized grille, headlights and air intakes giving it plenty of road presence for such a small car – although it can look a bit aggressive, especially when compared to the larger Rio. The three-door model has identical dimensions to the five-door, but gets a larger grille opening, with silver or red trim running around the edge, as well as a lower and wider front bumper and chrome-tipped twin exhausts at the rear. Inside, the dashboard has been shaped to mimic the tiger’s snout grille that adorns the front of the car. It’s all neatly designed, though, and the materials at least look expensive, even if they can feel a bit scratchy on further inspection. Specifications differ depending on which bodystyle you opt for, but the five-door line-up is made up of 1, 1 Air, 2 and 3 trims. Entry-level cars come with front electric windows, a trip computer and MP3 connectivity but make do with 14-inch steel wheels. 2 trim adds front fog lights, chrome door handles, heated door mirrors, all-round electric windows and Bluetooth, while range-topping 3 cars get 15-inch alloys, daytime running lights, heated front seats and climate control. The three-door Picanto is available in 1, 1 Air, City, White, Equinox and Halo specs. The Picanto White is a more recent addition to the line-up and comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, Bluetooth and air conditioning.
The Picanto is available with a choice of two petrol engines - a 68bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and an 84bhp 1.25-litre option. The smaller unit feels sluggish around town and strained at higher revs, particularly on the open road where it becomes breathless. The smoother and punchier 1.25-litre four-cylinder powerplant is a better bet, though, as it handles motorway speeds better, stays quieter and has enough power for overtaking. Plus, if you opt for the 1.25 EcoDynamics model - which is fitted with a fuel-saving stop-start system - it will return almost identical fuel economy to the smaller engine anyway. The steering is direct and the controls are light, which makes it perfect for dealing with the cut and thrust of town traffic. It’s just a shame the ride quality is so poor, as the stiff suspension thumps over bumpy tarmac.
The Kia Picanto has a four-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, which was disappointing for the brand but shouldn’t cause any concerns for UK buyers. It was penalised because entry-level European-spec models don’t come with ESP fitted as standard, while UK models do. It also received a decent 86 per cent rating for adult occupant protection, while standard kit includes ABS and Isofix child-seat fixings, as well as driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. As for reliability, the Picanto's seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty is incredible on a car like this, and demonstrates the faith Kia has in its products. Owners seem to agree, too, as Kia finished 12th overall in the 2012 Driver Power reliability survey - ahead of BMW and Audi – having climbed six places in just two years.
No matter which bodystyle you go for, the Picanto has a 200-litre boot. This is a third bigger than the old car’s and, crucially, it’s also bigger than the Fiat 500’s. However, the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii leave it trailing, with 251 litres with all seats in place. Every Picanto comes with 60:40 split-folding rear seats as standard, though, which increases its capacity to 600 litres. The 60mm longer wheelbase ensures more legroom in the back, while three adjustable headrests and a trio of full seatbelts are fitted as standard. Mid-spec models and above also benefit from a useful cubby hole under the centre console with twin cup-holders. However, it is a shame that only the passenger seat slides forward automatically so it’s tricky to get in behind the driver, and that the steering wheel only adjusts for rake not reach.
With a starting price of less than £8,000, the Picanto is great value for money. Although rivals like the Suzuki Alto and Dacia Sandero are cheaper to buy, they don’t offer anywhere near the same level of kit as the Kia. They also trail far behind when it comes to residual values, while the Picanto should be worth almost 45 per cent of its original price after three years. On top of that, no other city car offers the peace of mind of a seven-year warranty. The 1.0 EcoDynamics model is the most efficient in the line-up, with an official fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km, making it free from road tax and the London Congestion Charge. The most efficient 1.25 EcoDynamics model manages average mpg of 65.7 and emits 100g/km, thanks to Kia’s ISG tech – which stands for Idle Stop Go. Be aware, though, that opting for the four-speed automatic gearbox will have a big impact on these figures, with the White 1.25 auto model emitting 130g/km and returning just 50.4mpg. Insurance groups are low, though, plus Kia also offers a range of great-value fixed-price servicing deals, too.